Giannis, Khris Middleton Rally Bucks to Win Against Heat with Dominant 2nd Half

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2020

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) is fouled as he shoots against the defense of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Kim Klement/Associated Press

The Milwaukee Bucks snapped a two-game losing skid with a 130-116 victory over the Miami Heat on Thursday in Orlando, Florida. 

With the win, the Bucks clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat jumped out to a 34-25 lead after the first quarter and led by as many as 23 points in the second quarter. The absences of Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic may have proved pivotal, though, as Milwaukee's defense went up a level to fuel the comeback.


Notable Stats

Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, Bucks: 13-17 FG, 33 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, one block 

Khris Middleton, SF, Bucks: 9-14 FG, 33 points, six rebounds, eight assists

Brook Lopez, C, Bucks: 4-9 FG, 17 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks

Tyler Herro, SG, Heat: 6-12 FG, 20 points, four rebounds, five assists, one steal

Duncan Robinson, SG, Heat: 7-11 FG, 21 points, one rebound, one assist

Andre Iguodala, SG, Heat: 4-8 FG, 12 points, seven rebounds, eight assists


Bucks Flip the Switch in Second Half

One danger of the NBA restart is that teams with their postseason fortunes largely assured may not be motivated to approach each of the eight seeding games with a sense of urgency. The Bucks headed to Orlando with the knowledge they'll be the East's No. 1 team barring a total collapse.

The Cleveland Cavaliers showed during their run of four straight NBA Finals that it's possible for a team to look completely disjointed one night and then turn into a powerhouse when it really matters.

Based on Thursday's game, Milwaukee might possess the same capability. The Bucks allowed 73 first-half points for the second straight contest to raise serious alarm bells. Then they came out with a completely different effort level to open the third quarter.


20-5 @Bucks run to open the 3Q! #WholeNewGame 5-point game on TNT https://t.co/fe5Eli2Ch2

That the Bucks could so quickly turn the tide is encouraging with respect to their status as a title contender. The obvious key is avoiding the kind of flat first half that results in such a Jekyll and Hyde performance.

Khris Middleton was one of the few constants over all four quarters. Milwaukee's first-half deficit might have been even larger if he hadn't gone off for 16 points.

His hot shooting carried over into the second half as the Bucks chipped away at the lead.

Milwaukee Bucks @Bucks

All-NBA moves. https://t.co/sFyGopRDNi

Kristian Winfield @Krisplashed

Khris Middleton got 28 points on 11 shots? 👀


Khris Middleton is smooth 💯 Get to TNT to watch the 4th QTR of Bucks/Heat! https://t.co/EePuZP0wlJ

Middleton took the scoring burden off Giannis Antetokounmpo long enough for the reigning MVP to take over the game late and eliminate any doubt about the result.


Heat Send Warning Sign to Milwaukee

The best way to explain the opening two quarters is that Bam Adebayo connected on a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the half.


🚨 BAM at the BUZZER! 🚨 The @MiamiHEAT lead the @Bucks 73-56 at the half on TNT! #WholeNewGame https://t.co/m4HlIxlKx9

Many viewed this game through the prism of a possible playoff matchup since Milwaukee and Miami could potentially cross paths in the second round. The Boston Celtics weren't ultimately a tough challenge for the Bucks in the second round last year, but the Heat could be a different story.

The absence of Butler left Miami without a true go-to scorer. The team compensated by getting strong contributions across the board. Bam Adebayo and Solomon Hill were the only players who failed to hit double figures in scoring before head coach Erik Spoelstra emptied the bench.

The Heat buried the Bucks under a three-point barrage.

x - Miami HEAT @MiamiHEAT

The exact # of 3’s we hit in the 1st half: 👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌 👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌 👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌 👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌 👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌 👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌 👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌👌 (Approx.) https://t.co/b7tj2deLjo

Miami's offense cooled off in the fourth quarter, which allowed the Bucks to pull away. To some extent, the outcome was decided by the fact one team had its best player and the other team didn't.

Tim Bontemps @TimBontemps

Giannis has taken over here with several spectacular moves for dunks in the past couple minutes. Heat, meanwhile, have had a couple Duncan Robinson 3s rim out, but otherwise have struggled without Jimmy Butler - who would be the one creating shots for himself and others right now

Joy Taylor @JoyTaylorTalks

Miami let this get out of control. They stopped moving the ball around when they went cold shooting. They’re hurting without Dragic and Butler tho so I’m not worried.

Even with Butler, the Heat would be big underdogs against the Bucks. However, they could at least be the kind of nuisance that pushes Milwaukee deeper than head coach Mike Budenholzer would like that early into the playoffs.


What's Next?

The Heat and Bucks are both in action again Saturday. Miami plays the Phoenix Suns at 7:30 p.m., and Milwaukee follows shortly after at 8:30 p.m. ET against the Dallas Mavericks.